Bullock and Moulton hurt their own chances by entering the contest later than the rest of the field, giving them less time to build up a fundraising network and register in the polls. But it’s particularly egregious for a governor to be denied an early debate slot. Governors, who have executive experience that is removed from the loathed Washington, are often strong general election candidates. The current Democratic field only has two other governors among a morass of Beltway denizens, and unlike Bullock, they don’t hail from a Trump-won state. Late polling may be a saving grace for Bullock and get him into the July debate, but it’s madness that the one red-state Democratic governor isn’t on the stage from the get-go.
The DNC tightens the criteria for its planned September debates, with invites going to those who reach 2% in four sanctioned polls and earn 130,000 donors. For those candidates who just barely crossed the 65,000-donor threshold (including Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, Sen. Cory Booker and Gov. Jay Inslee) or who didn’t reach 65,000 donors but qualified for the first debates on polling, (including Sen. Michael Bennet, former Gov. John Hickenlooper and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio) they most likely need a breakout debate performance to juice their fundraising operations enough to remain viable.
But with such crowded stages, breakout performances will be hard to manufacture. With 10 people behind lecterns and just two hours (minus time taken up by moderators), candidates can expect to talk for only about eight minutes total. And candidates with no hope and nothing to lose have a tendency to grab a share of the spotlight.